This weekend, on the eve of the UN climate talks in Paris, 785,000 took part in over 2,300 events in 175 countries including the UK (Belfast, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle and London).  It was an incredible demonstration of global solidarity urging climate action.  

It was also a lot of fun.  My son and I joined RSPB supporters in London to clap, dance and march (in the wind and rain) for the love of nature.

But now the negotiations have begun - two weeks of tough talks designed to secure a deal.   

Below, our Principal Climate Change Advisor, John Lanchbery, gives his first postcard from Paris.

Images from Sunday's march in London (credit, Nick Cunard)


Presidents and prime ministers abound: a postcard from Paris by John Lanchbery

Today 150 leaders arrived in Paris from around the world. The UN says that this is probably the biggest gathering ever of heads of state and government.

It is cast iron evidence that the vast majority of the most senior politicians, almost everywhere, want to tackle climate change. The junior ministers and civil servants are being told to get on with it.

Yet, everyone back home will know what their leaders say. Their speeches are generally directed at domestic audiences and the news media will run them word for word, complete with comment. So here I focus on a few things that are happening in the background - most of which will definitely not be reported.

The first thing to say is that Paris is buzzing. I am staying in the area where the terrorist attacks occurred. Yet the cafes and restaurants have been bursting with (French) people all weekend - at least in the evenings as I have been out all of Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday we had our usual Climate Action Network strategy meeting, in the predominantly immigrant district of Bobingy - no problem at all. All of the big environment and development groups were there.

Our meetings differ from the governmental ones in that we work on the assumption that we are a basically a bunch of friends, albeit a very large bunch with over 950 member organisations worldwide. We had people outlining the good and bad things in national policy - with Europeans talking about the EU, Americans talking about the USA, Chinese talking about China, Indians talking about Índia, Brazilians talking about Brazil and so on. This is a much better way of working than the intergovernmental one. We have a common purpose.

On Sunday, the official UN negotiations began at 5pm at the UN conference site at Le Bourget, the old Paris Airport but with a huge area of new buildings. I like it, but that may just be because it has been warm and sunny.   As happens at these conferences, everything then seems to speed up...

...on arrival I bumped into some journalists: first Fiona Harvey from the Guardian and then Geoffrey Lean who used to write for both the Observer and Telegraph. I talked to some of the lead negotiators for the European Commission team, briefly greeted the German team, chatted to some of the S Africans, and then settled down with some of the environmentalists working on forest matters.  And then, I met up with people from DRC (Congo) and Uganda before being joined by the Filipinos working on forests, including Tony La Vina who brilliantly chaired the UN group on halting deforestation, and Yeb Sano who who was the Philippines head of delegation but is now making his own way as a principled environmentalist.

...I then went into the formal UN session mainly with the US environmental folk working on forest issues to construct our cunning plan ... get home, I took the train back to Paris with Janice from the Sierra Club in the USA who is a volunteer and running the CAN technology group as a pensioner. We were seated with the Afghan delegation who have been having a hard time obtaining visas.

...this morning (Monday) I came in on the train with Enrique from Argentina. Security was tight but very slick so we arrived early for the CAN coordination meeting at nine o'clock.

...there are leaders' speeches all day today with high level meetings between them that we cannot get near, let alone into. The negotiations on the Paris treaty start again at 7pm. In the meantime, we are meeting with country delegations who cannot get into the leaders meetings either.

More soon...


If John has the time, I hope to be able to share another postcard from the front line of the talks in Paris.  But in the meantime, I wish every success to all those involved in the talks.